How to feel better about your job in Radiology

Recent headlines seem to be screaming at radiology professionals: “Stop burnout in radiology before it starts” and “Burnout busters propose solutions at radiology leadership event” and “Common situations in radiology that cause burnout.” If you don’t feel burned out now, reading about it may cause another kind of anxiety.

The problem is real. Radiology is now the seventh highest specialty for burnout, according to the 2018 Medscape National Physician Burnout and Depression Report. It was the 20th highest in 2017 and the 10th highest in 2016.  This is driving leaders in radiology to look for ways to reverse the trend before it gets even worse.

Some practices are looking at the problem using modern science, such as taking the quick and informative Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI.) Just knowing the areas it measures could greatly inform the way staff relates to one another and patients. It could also trigger the kind of meaningful conversations that help people feel heard, often the best first step toward resolving issues causing burnout.

The MBI measures:
–Emotional exhaustion, such as feelings of being emotionally overextended and exhausted at one’s work;
–Depersonalization, such as an unfeeling and impersonal response toward patients in one’s service, care, treatment, or instruction;
–Personal accomplishment, including feelings of competence and successful achievement in one’s work with people;
–Cynicism, or indifference or a distant attitude towards your work, used as a coping mechanism for distancing oneself from exhausting job demands;
–Professional efficacy, described as feelings of competence and successful achievement in one’s work, involving a sense of personal accomplishment that emphasizes effectiveness and success.

What can be done to prevent burnout and the loss of competent employees? Talking about it is a good start, but formally addressing it with changes to official policies is probably the only way to be sure it is addressed effectively over the long term.

When a Mayo Clinic initiative targeted leadership, organizational culture, the practice environment, and systems, it reduced burnout rates by 7 percent over two years, while at the same time nationally, the physician burnout rate rose 11 percent using the same metrics. A subsequent survey showed that the burnout rate decreased around 66 percent compared to national rates.

Start with the basics, like making sure people take breaks and eat lunch. Sounds simple, maybe even silly, but studies show that in busy practices, people who take lunch can feel shame, especially if most of the others don’t. That leads to a feeling of loss of control. Doctors should lead by example, and regularly take breaks for nourishment.

Engage staff in conversation about why they entered the field. Everyone reports that they started down this professional path because it offered a meaningful career. But sometimes, in the hustle and bustle of endless long days, people began to feel trapped by work, and lose sight of the real importance of work they do day in and day out, on behalf of people whose lives can depend on their skills.

Find ways to regularly celebrate and focus on what’s good, by setting goals and rewarding both long- and short-term accomplishments. Move away from productivity as the sole defining assessment for effectiveness. Allow for participation on hospital committees or community nonprofit boards or activities, and continuing education.

Find ways to decrease or streamline necessary but mind-numbing administrative and bureaucratic tasks. Some organizations hire reading room coordinators to triage phone calls and track down records or doctors needed for consultation, allowing radiologists to focus on reading.

Make sure the office is properly lit and furnished, making it comfortable and accessible for work.

Changing the setup of the reading room can lead to better teamwork.

Be about more than just work. Do fun and relaxing things together, too. Even a shared meal once a week will grow relationships and increase satisfaction. Survey, and let employees decide on these types of activities, again, to increase the feeling of control. Studies show even minor changes can increase morale.

Burnout can be an invisible hurdle to your continued success. If it’s an issue with your staff, and not addressed, it will only get worse. Open the dialogue today.